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Former White House Chief of Staff James Baker after he gave a eulogy at the funeral service for former President George H.W. Bush at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018.
Jack Gruber, USA TODAY

Former President George H. W. Bush’s secretary of state, James Baker, described the relationship between the two statesmen as one of “big brother and little brother.”

One of the things that the 41st president liked most about his top diplomat was that “I’d always tell him what I thought, even when I knew he didn’t want to hear it,” Baker said, speaking at Bush’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston Thursday.

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Baker drew laughs when describing their “spirited” discussions and how his boss had a “very effective way” of telling him the conversation was over.

“He would look at me and he’d say: ‘Baker, if you’re so smart, why am I president and you’re not?’”

Baker, who was by Bush’s side during his final hours Friday, teared up as he concluded his eulogy by remembering a letter in which Bush told Baker, “My glory is that I have you as such a friend,” a line inspired by one of the late president's treasured lines from poet William Butler Yeats.

“We rejoice, Mr. President, that you are safely tucked in now and through the ages, with God’s loving arms around you,” Baker said, tearfully. “Because our glory, George, was to have you as our president and as such a friend.”

Baker and Bush’s son, Jeb Bush, wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post Tuesday that “never met a man as remarkable” as the late president, citing political achievements such as ending of the Cold War and personal deeds like when he and his wife Barbara Bush lifted Baker “out of despair” after his first wife died at age 38.

“As both public figure and private individual, he set a standard of excellence astonishing in its scope,” Baker and Jeb Bush wrote.

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